This chess bars recipe is one of the easiest and best desserts out there! Sometimes referred to as chess cake or gooey butter cake, these bars use cream cheese and yellow cake mix for a delicious dessert that’s requested year-round!
Does everyone have a favorite dessert from when they were growing up? I think this might be mine. Chess bars (also referred to as chess squares or gooey butter cake). My mom would make a batch of these every so often and stick them in the fridge. I’d secretly sneak them out quite frequently, even if she was saving them for Easter, Christmas, or some other holiday. When I’d mention to her how much I loved them, she’d say that they were so easy, she should make them more often. And do you know what? They ARE so easy.
What are chess bars?
These chess bars have a layer of cake-likeness on the bottom and a layer of gooey cream cheese + powdered sugar on the top. I just love how the top tends to get all crackly too. Over the years, my sweet tooth has almost gone away, but I still can’t resist these! My mom has made them more recently, and they are ALWAYS what I gravitate towards and tend to scarf down a little too quickly.
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 stick butter (softened)
- 4 eggs
- Cream cheese (softened)
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
Some tips when making the recipe:
- I’d recommend letting the chess bars completely cool before cutting. You’ll get much better results that way. And they are easier to cut. It’s hard to resist eating them right away, but trust me.
- I typically cook my chess bars in a parchment-lined pan so I can easily take them out and cut them, but you can also just make them in a cake pan with no parchment and then cut them in the pan. Either works!
Do chess bars need to be refrigerated?
Yes! At least, I do. Most things that have cream cheese do better with refrigeration and it keeps them fresh. If I’m serving for a gathering, they are fine if you have them out for a few hours. I do try to put them out at least 30 minutes before serving, just so they get that bit of gooeyness back.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Use wax paper in between each layer of chess bars so that they don’t stick to one another.
Can you make other flavors?
Absolutely! I’ve made a pumpkin version of these before and they were delicious. An easy way to mix it up is to use something other than yellow cake mix in the base. You can try strawberry, lemon, whatever you want. I can’t guarantee they will come out perfectly since I’ve never tested it out, but it SEEMS like it should work!
How to make the chess squares:
Making the chess bars, or squares, is so easy! First, make sure your butter and cream cheese are softened. Then you can get started! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper for easy removal and cutting of the chess bars.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), mix together 1 egg, the softened stick of butter, and the cake mix. Mix until blended and combined.
Take this mixture and pat down into a 9×13 pan.
Wash and dry your mixing bowl, then add the cream cheese, 3 eggs, vanilla, and powdered sugar to the bowl. Then mix that until combined and pour over the cake mixture.
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator with wax paper in between each layer.
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 stick butter softened
- 1 egg for base
- 3 eggs for topping
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 1 box powdered sugar 16 oz
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Take the cake mix, 1 egg, and softened stick of butter and mix together.
- Pat down into a 9x13 pan.
- Mix together remaining eggs, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla and pour over cake.
- Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 325 and bake for 45-50 minutes.
- This cake will sink in the middle after it cools.
- Let cool completely before cutting. Cut into squares and place any remaining bars in the refrigerator in an airtight container (between layers of wax or parchment paper).
- I'd recommend letting the chess bars completely cool before cutting. You'll get much better results that way. And they are easier to cut. It's hard to resist eating them right away, but trust me.
- I cook mine in a parchment-lined pan so I can easily take them out and cut them, but you can also just make them in a cake pan with no parchment and then cut them in the pan. Either works!